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Remorseful Braun apologizes to sample collector

(Reuters) - Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun says he has made amends with the specimen collector he blamed during a February 2012 news conference for what he described as a “fatally flawed” drug-testing protocol in Major League Baseball.

Milwaukee Brewers batter Ryan Braun celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a two run home run in the eighth inning to defeat the Chicago Cubs 3-1 putting the Brewers in the post season for the first time in 26 years in the MLB National League wild card playoff posistion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin September 28, 2008. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

The former National League most valuable player said on Wednesday he had dinner earlier this week at the home of the urine specimen collector, Dino Laurenzi Jr., and had apologized for his actions during “some really good conversations.”

Speaking publicly for the first time since he accepted a 65-game ban in July for violating the league’s joint drug prevention program, Braun also expressed his deep regret for the “big mistake” he made in using performance enhancing drugs.

“We’ve made amends, and I think we’re both excited to be able to move forward and put this behind us,” five-time All-Star Braun told reporters while taking part in a food drive outside Miller Park in Milwaukee.

“I’m not going to get into too many details other than to say it was an incredible experience. It was extremely kind and gracious of them (Laurenzi and his family). They’re really special people.

“I wish that I could change it. I wish that I hadn’t said anything about him. I wish I knew more at the time I said what I said.”

Braun escaped a 50-game suspension following his 2011 National League MVP season when his positive test for elevated testosterone levels was overturned after he challenged protocols over how his urine sample was handled.

During that challenge, Braun continually maintained his innocence while heavily criticizing the conduct of Laurenzi.

“I wish that I hadn’t done the press conference,” said Braun. “It was a big mistake. I deeply regret having done it, and a lot of the things that I said that day. My opinion on a lot of those things has definitely changed.”

“All I can do is move forward, and in an effort to do that, I’m not going to get into too many specifics. I really don’t think that it does anything too positive or productive for me, for the team, for the game of baseball or anybody else.”

Braun, 30, accepted his 65-game ban in July without a fight, becoming the first top player to be suspended following Major League Baseball’s probe into reports that performance enhancing drugs had been obtained from a Florida clinic.

Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue